How To Protect Yourself And Your Pets From Rabies
After a skunk in Oakland tested positive for rabies, Mainers are reminded to protect themselves and their pets from getting infected.
Rabies is a contagious disease that's spread through bodily fluids, like saliva or blood, so humans can become infected if they're bitten or scratched by an infected animal. Symptoms to watch for in animals include strange behavior, seizures, foaming at the mouth, and aggression. The skunk was tested for rabies after a resident noticed it was walking around and around in a circle. The Maine CDC says the disease can be treated and cured in humans if it's caught quickly enough but, if it goes untreated, is almost always fatal.
The good news is that there are some things folks can do to protect themselves and their animals from rabies.
One of the most common ways for humans to become infected with rabies is through their own pets. If the domestic animal is infected by a wild animal, they will then carry that infection home to their owners. The first, best line of defense is to make sure your pets are current on their rabies vaccinations. None of us like to watch our pets get shots, but that vaccination could be the difference between life and death.
If you know where your pets are, chances are slimmer that they're going to get infected without your knowledge. If you have cats, keep them inside. And if you have dogs, keep them in a fenced area, tether them, or go outside with them. If they're allowed to run freely through the woods or around the neighborhood, they're more apt to come across a wild animal. And by the time you realize they've been infected, you've already been exposed to the disease.
It's not unusual this time of year to look out your window and see a skunk, raccoon, deer, or even bear in your yard. For many, it's part of what they love about the state. But it could be bad news if the animal is infected with rabies. So do what you can to avoid attracting them to the yard. One of the best deterrents is storing trash in tightly lidded cans. This time of year, animals are hungry with little for natural foodstuffs, so they'll be attracted to your smelly trash bags.
Continuing on with the topic of preventing the attraction of wild animals in your yard, it's important to eliminate other delicious smells. So clean up the grill after you're done using it, and take all condiments and foodstuffs inside when you're done. Bird feeders should also be taken in at night, and any seeds raked up off the ground. And don't leave pet food outside in a bowl. If the infected animal finds its way into your yard, it's much more likely to have a confrontation with your own pets.
If you see an animal acting strangely, it's important to report it to local animal control or the Warden Service. This could include a domestic pet or wild animal that's suddenly unusually aggressive, foaming at the mouth, or just generally behaving in a way that's contrary to the norm. Seeing nocturnal animals out in the middle of the day can be concerning, as well. Notify authorities about the animal and where you spotted it. And leave the apprehension of the animal up to the experts.